If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last two months, it is this simple truth: potty training is completely unlike all previous transitions of baby- and toddler-hood.
The moms of older kids are just shaking their heads and chuckling at me right now, and that’s just fine. We all come to these realizations in our own time.
While you can argue about “readiness” for the other big transitions of the first few years (sleeping through the night, letting go of bottles or pacifiers, etc.), I have found that most of them you can kind of muscle your way through. Choose your approach, implement it consistently, and grit your teeth for the three or four days it takes to make the transition. A friend of mine has a theory that nearly everything with babies and kids takes about three to four days to settle in, so you have to give it that long.
Potty training is an entirely different beast. Maybe it’s because they’re older and more manipulative smarter. Maybe it’s because, instead of “removing” something, you’re asking them to actively “do” something. Maybe it’s the perfect storm of development and control. But try as I might, it simply is not something you can just hunker down and get through in a couple of days.
Of course, even that isn’t entirely true. Never was there a situation that was more child-specific. My daughter actually took to potty training rather well. The first week or two felt long, but the truth is that she took to it quickly, and has stayed shockingly consistent. Barely two months later and she is, knock on wood, even Pull-Up free at night and nap. That’s just her thing.
Her brother, on the other hand… well. He seemed to take to it well the first week. And then the second week arrived and, pardon the expression, it was an absolute shitstorm of constant accidents. He’d have a success or two in the morning, and then straight downhill for the rest of the day. After a looong week and a half of constant accidents (on his part) and a complete emotional breakdown (on my part), I put him back in Pull-Ups, full-time. Since then, he has absolute negative interest in the potty. He has used it here and there, but mostly wants nothing to do with it. And he’s in such an intensely controlling, contrary, stubborn phase right now, I’m simply stepping away and not turning it into a massive power struggle.
You just never know what you’re going to get when it comes to potty training. You could have the kid who can hold it for hours on end, or the one who has to sprint to the bathroom every 45 minutes. You could have the one who’s afraid of pooping, or the one who will happily sit on the pot anywhere and everywhere.
And you’ll never know until you try.
So, you parents of potty trainees, how have your kids varied in their potty hang-ups? What were their struggles and successes? Did you find a particular approach worked wonders on one child and was a disaster with the other?
You’d think that, at 2.5, I’d know how to play with my children. And to a large extent, of course, I do. But the truth is that I spend a large portion of the day coordinating, shuttling, refereeing, and then getting out of the way when they’re actually playing nicely with one another. We go to activities together, we come home together. They play while I make lunch. They go down for nap together. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
But recently, due to some potty-training boot camp weekends, I have had the opportunity to spend nearly the entire weekend with each kid, alone. And it’s amazing how different that experience is.
My daughter was the first to go on the boot-camp front, so my husband disappeared for most of the day with our son. Rebecca has an impressive attention span, and could stay focused on one activity for quite a while. Read a bunch of books, roll out some play-doh, create multiple large-scale finger-paint masterpieces.
She pretty much chose an activity that she wanted to do, had me set it up for her, and played independently for 20 minutes or more at a stretch. Oh, sure, she wanted me to look at what she’d done, and we had fun comparing the sizes of our finger-paint handprints. And she can be goofy as all get-out, and loves to race circles around the first floor on a big green racing turtle. But she’s an introvert, just like her daddy. She could spend a lot of time engrossed in her own little world, singing songs to herself.
Two weeks later, and the kids switched places. It was Daniel’s turn for a weekend of mommy and potty. I scarcely realized how much I should have rested up for the whirlwind that is my son. In terms of straight physical activity, he’s not the perpetual-motion machine that a lot of toddler boys are. But he never, ever, EVER stops talking.
The talking was not a surprise to me. He’s been like that for ages. What I did find fascinating is his new love of pretend-play. He would come up with elaborate story lines and want me to act them out with him. Most were a mish-mash of favorite TV shows and memories of things we’d done together. But he wasn’t just telling the story, we were playing it. I had to sit next to him on the bench of the Dinosaur Train, and stamp his ticket with my claw. I sat in the back seat of Daddy’s car (actually, the floor of our mudroom) while he drove us to the airport and the museum. I could only convince him to take a potty break from these elaborate tales by suggesting that we visit the potty on the Dinosaur Train/airplane/museum bathroom.
The extrovert, which he obviously gets from me, bounces from one thing to the next and wants me to be involved in every part. That is, at least, until he tells me to get off of the couch and go into the kitchen. When I ask why, he says it’s so he can slide down the arm of the couch (which he knows he’s not really supposed to do – bad liar).
It was really something to shift out of my normal gear, which is to just kind of manage the chaos and the outings and make sure everyone is reasonably happy, somewhat well-behaved, and not killing one another. To actually take a day or two, stay in the house, and play with each kid on their own terms.
What about you? Have you gotten the chance to sit and play with one kid at a time? Do you find them remarkably similar or completely different?
I’m a rip-off-the-bandaid kind of person, at least as far as parenting goes. In most things, I have no interest in dragging out the process. I’d rather have one really horrible week and then have something be over, instead of going back and forth for months on end.
Call me a sadist, but I actually kind of loved sleep-training. We did overnight, naps, and ditching the swaddle, all at the same time. Once I had read up on the method and bought into the concept, I did not have any trouble holding my resolve for cry-it-out. Four days later, I had two 6-month-olds who slept 12 hours at night and woke up happy. Totally worth the three hours my son cried that first night (and the third, too). He’s been a ridiculously solid sleeper ever since. I am the first to encourage other people to do it. Hell, if I was a night-owl like my husband, I’d probably go into business and let people pay me to sleep-train their kids.
I went cold-turkey on saying goodbye to bottles, too. Just threw ’em in the trash one day, and that was that. My daughter barely drank any milk for a few days (plenty of water and dairy, don’t worry), but once we found the cup she liked, all was well. Swapping out a bottle for a cup here and there just wasn’t our style.
And now, I have 2.5-year-olds. You can probably guess what transition is up next.
(cue horror movie music)
I’ve been thinking about it for months, now. We’ve held out simply due to my own fears, not because I think the kids weren’t ready. For whatever reason, I finally decided it was time. I decided to start with my daughter, and have my husband take her brother out of the house for as much of the weekend as humanly possible. (Two solid days of the four of us not leaving the house and trying to negotiate the potty all together sounded like a recipe for disaster… I wanted us to still like each other when this was all over.)
Saturday morning, we through out all of the smaller diapers in the house and put my daughter in underwear. Watched her like a hawk, tried to keep her entertained without leaving the house. For a mom that usually gets the kids out and about at least once or twice a day, it goes counter to everything I usually strive for, but we’ve stayed in.
Today is day three, and I think (knock on wood) that we may be turning a corner. I’ll do my best to give a full report when we’re out of the weeds.
In the meantime, I can tell you one thing: I will not be turning into any kind of professional potty-trainer. But we’ve gone cold turkey, and there is no going back.
I’m the kind of person who likes to do the right thing. If the sign says, “No Passing” you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll continue following that car that’s going 2 mph even though there’s not another car for miles to come. That’s just who I am. Not sure if I was born that way, or if it was something I learned along the way, but I’m a big stickler for following the rules.
But it was that particular part of my personality that made parenting so challenging for me in the beginning. The hospital doesn’t send you home with a manual explaining the right way to bring up your children. And my head was spinning with all the conflicting advice I was getting from doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, and pediatricians, not to mention my mother-in-law. I mean, how could the pediatric nurse practitioner advise something totally different than what the pediatrician had? They work in the same building, and it the same practice! Shouldn’t they be on the same page? It was literally driving me to tears (with the help of my crazy hormones, I suspect). I just wanted to hear that this was how you do it, so I could go home and do it that way and feel satisfied that what I was doing was the right thing.
And then one day, I went to a new mothers’ group and heard those simple words that changed my whole outlook on parenting. The facilitator said, “Every mother is different, and every baby is different. What works for some moms and their babies doesn’t work for other moms and their babies.” And although what she said was so simple, it was so freeing for me, because it somehow made it okay for me to try out different techniques to teach my babies to nurse, to get them to fall asleep, to calm them when they were screaming their heads off. Because the recommendations from a particular “expert” might work for some moms and some babies, but they it might not work for us. (And even what works for one twin does not necessarily work for the other.) As parents, we know our children best and have to learn to listen to the expert within us to guide us as we make important parenting decisions.
Which leads me to present day. Several family members have told me that my daughter appears to be ready for potty training. My son, clearly, is not. They have just turned 22 months old, and although I hadn’t planned to even think about potty training until my guys were about 2 ½, I happen to believe that it is possible my daughter just might be ready to give it a try. She does show some signs of readiness (thanks for the link, Sadia), and I actually feel like I’m ready to take this on.
The experts certainly have a lot to say about potty training- when a child should be ready and how persistent or relaxed the approach should be- but I know it’s okay if I don’t agree with all the wisdom they have to share. I’ll start by following the advice that seems to fit best with my own philosophies, but in the end it’s going to be all about what works for us- trying things out, adjusting the game plan, even going back to the drawing board if necessary.
And while I had hoped (perhaps expected) that my twins would potty train at the same time, my gut tells me that it’s okay to give it a try with just one. Perhaps my son will surprise me (we do have training pant for him just in case), or maybe I’ll learn that really neither one of them is ready quite yet. We’ll just have to wait and see.
So how do you navigate through the sea of parenting experts? Are there experts you swear by? Or do you like to chart your own course as you go? (Any potty training tips would be greatly appreciated as well.)
“Child-proofing” is a term that gives me a good hearty chuckle, like “potty trained.” We child-proofed the heck out of our house when we were expecting the twins. Magnetic locks on all the cabinets, with the magnet stored up high. Gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. Locks on all the door handles, outlet covers out the wazoo, chemicals stored up high (except personal lubricant)… The kids had the run of the living room, kitchen, dining room and hallway, but couldn’t get anywhere else.
That was perfect, until the twins learned to walk.
Please, for the love of all that is sacred, if you have a spare baby gate, would you consider giving or loaning it to me?
I have 16-month-old twins and I just cleaned the kitchen trash off the floor for the 9th time today. This is AFTER I taped the lid shut. They just used their twin powers for evil and lifted the lid right off.
We have two gates but they are on the top and bottom of the stairs. I never would have dreamed we’d need to gate them out of every part of the house. Silly me.
So please, I am nearly in tears because they think they are hilarious but I can’t take this anymore! If you have a gate you aren’t using I PROMISE I will return it to you if you can loan it to me. Or maybe I can trade you for something. We just don’t have any $ for gates until at least the new year, and even then… Gates are crazy-expensive.
Thank you in advance!
[Note: The twins thinking they are hilarious frequently coincides with me nearly being in tears. That hasn’t changed in the last four years.]
This post resulted in an intimidating fencing system cobbled together from various semi-broken baby gates. On the plus side, the boys were finally confined to the living room and hallway and were no longer free to roam and plunder the garbage. Sadly, my 3-year-old had to be able to predict her need to urinate in enough time to press the release button – which only sometimes worked – on the hall gate blocking the babies from the kitchen/dining room/bathroom. And my blog is named “Diagnosis: Urine,” so we all know how that worked out for me.
Any good “child-proofing” stories in your past?
Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old boys G and P, and 3-year-old Haney Jane. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.
My twins are 5 now. Five! When I’m out with the kids, I’m more likely to be asked whether they and their older sister are triplets, than I am to be asked whether the boys are twins. The spectacle of twinfants in a double stroller is behind us, replaced by the more alarming spectacle of my energetic, exuberant children in public.
After reading Goddess in Progress’s fantastic post, Absolving the Guilt, I decided to focus my HDYDI posts on the various nagging worries, frighteningly strong emotions, and unpleasant aspects of having very young multiples. And, more specifically, how those worries and scary thoughts (“Can’t I give them back??”) and unpleasant things (for example, urgently needing to use the toilet in a public place, with your toddler collection in tow) have resolved themselves.
I want to do this for several reasons. First, I love to complain. Unfortunately, my kids are getting so much easier now that I don’t have much current complaint fodder, so I have to go vintage. Second, I worried that I was a terrible mother for some of the thoughts and feelings I had during my early mothering career. I worried that no one else felt the same way. I hope I can make other parents feel less awful for composing a lullabye that includes “shut up, just shut up” as part of the lyrics. Third, I’ve spent about 5 years now assuring other parents of twins that it gets easier. Now I’ll try to pin down how and when.
Someone on my regular blog just commented about the ages of 4-11 being “the sweet spot,” where things are pretty easy. I did a little math and found that the average of my kids’ ages is 4.5, and I am definitely feeling the sweet spot thing. It just hit in the last few months.
Now, life is sweet. My oldest dresses herself (and doesn’t pee herself! Whee!!!), and the twins will dress themselves if I talk them through it to keep things moving. They can put on their own shoes and coats. And, they can play outside without me!!!! Even the “baby,” who is nearly 3 so I should stop calling her the baby.
Can you imagine the glory of preparing dinner in solitude while your children chase each other with sticks in your backyard? Ladies and gents, this dream is coming your way.
Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old identical boys G and P, and 2-year-old Haney Jane. She blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.
With our singleton, every milestone and transition came with a plan. Stopping the bottle, transitioning to a big girl bed, potty training, you name it. We had a well-researched, discussed-to-death plan for all of those things. And, in the end, all of those transitions took longer than I would have liked and almost all came with regressions and tears.
When we found out we were having twin boys, I thought “Oh God, I need more PLANS”. I started analyzing how and when we did certain things with our daughter and trying to mentally alter the plans. But so far, they’ve made all the transitions on their own and rather spontaneously. With NO PLANS. Dropping the bottle and going to cup only. Check. Sleep schedules. Check. Crib-to-bed transition. Check.
We’ve turned the corner on two years and next up on the list: Potty-training. I had always thought we wouldn’t even introduce this concept until they are 3 because, well, it sounds hard! Two BOYS? No thanks. But after reading about other Multiple Mama’s recent potty successes, Brian and I decided to take advantage of the warm summer weather — and fenced in backyard — and have a go.
First, I took to heart a post from Amazing Trips. The blog has documented the struggles of potty training the triplets. The PLANS, the manuevers, the bribes. Everything. But then this post describes the recent success of potty training the youngest child by simply allowing him the freedom to figure it out. Huh.
I mentioned all this to Brian. The next nice day, he took the boys outside and took off their diapers. He placed a potty seat outside and they all poured water into it while Brian said “potty, potty”. There was a lot of excitement and clapping. And they went on to playing as normal (sans diapers*).
Then, miraculously, out of the blue, Brady ran over to it yelling “pee pee” and WENT. IN THE POTTY. And then proceeded to do this on a consistent basis for the rest of the morning. And afternoon. And the next day. Nice.
Then, building on LauraC’s thoughts of “peer pressure” when potty-training twins, we decided to focus our energy on Brady, since he seemed to be the one so interested. We put Brady in pull-ups and he tells us potty and he tries. He can pee often, hasn’t pooped yet but is putting in the effort. At some point, Aaron will follow along, right? Right. Aaron now grabs himself (lovely boy habit) and yells “PEE PEE”. And then goes. Wherever he is. So he has the concept of the bodily function down, now we just have to get him to the potty. But, he’s interested because Brady is doing it.
We still have a way to go. But I wanted to thank these (and other) Mothers of Multiples for putting two ideas in my head — that went against the PLANS I was forming — that seem to actually be working!
*Sans diapers AND with blue, princess high-heeled shoes. We’re all about fashion.
During the course of parenting multiples, I have a rotating list of least favorite common comments. I know everyone has them. “Double trouble!” “Two for the price of one!” My current #1 least favorite twin comment that started four months ago: “I bet Alex will start using the potty now that he sees Nate using the potty.”
My boys have been in group care for almost three years. Since they moved to the 2s room a year ago, ALL of the kids in the room sit on the potty four times a day. That’s 50+ potty sittings a day that happen in front of my kids. They see plenty of potty use. They talk about potty use. They see other kids in underwear. They see other kids rewarded for potty use. They see plenty of accidents. The words “poop” and “pee” come out of their mouths as frequently as “mommy!” They sit on the potty themselves at least four times a day.
And it was a four month gap between the time that Nate trained and when Alex trained.
It’s not like we did nothing to prepare the kids for potty training. The above list represents only what day care did. At home, we had booty camps and potty sits and practice runs and sticker charts and incentives. One cold rainy March weekend, Nate decided he wanted to wear underwear. After a weekend booty camp, he was trained. Alex had no interest and peed all over the house the weekends we tried underwear.
At 3 years 2 months, Alex’s tipping point became Nate. Since Nate was potty trained, he got to move up to the 3s room while Alex had to stay in the 2s room. It took one week of Nate being in the 3s room without Alex before Alex decided he was ready to wear underwear. One weekend booty camp later and we have two potty trained boys.
In some ways, my least favorite twin comment is correct. Alex became interested in potty training because Nate was potty trained. But it had nothing to do with watching Nate, seeing Nate’s success, or seeing Nate’s incentives. It was because Alex did not want to be apart from Nate. Knowing that fact makes listening to all the crazy twin comments totally worth it.